Senator Jenny McAllister has renewed calls for federal parliament to include gender analyses every time a policy is put before the country's key decision makers.
Delivering the inaugural Mavis Robertson address at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds in Adelaide yesterday, McAllister also called for women's budget statements to be reintroduced - something that was taken away by the Howard and Abbott governments.
McAllister, who also chairs the Senate inquiry in to economic security for women in retirement, believes these two proposals would be starting point, and would make a difference "because policy makers are oblivious, not malicious."
"Policies that don't take into account the different economic lives of women run the risk of producing inferior outcomes for women, and that is what I think has happened in some parts of our taxation and retirement systems. Just because our policies are gender blind, doesn't mean that they're gender neutral," McAllister told the conference.
On retirement policy, McAllister repeated the line that twice the amount of superannuation tax concessions from government flow to men than to women, despite women clearly needing the most financial support.
"Labor has committed to curbing some of these excesses by tackling the generous tax concessions that flow to, mostly male, high income earners. We also recognise the need to do something to assist very low income earners," McAllister said.
She said the inquiry's testimony has also underlined the importance of maintaining the old age pension.
"Unlike superannuation, the old age pension has the capacity to guarantee a decent standard of retirement, regardless of someone's income throughout their life. It seems to be more suited to many women's situations - it is able to recognise the lifetime of unpaid work that women provide to their families and communities," McAllister said.
The Labor Senator said there has been a national conversation about tax reform but "what we haven't heard is a gender analysis of these ideas."
She added the current tax system penalises women when they go back to work after having children because families lose the Family Tax Benefits when women go back to work.
McAllister said The Australia Institute has calculated that women enjoyed only a 32% share of the income tax cuts dealt out since 2005.
McAllister said Australia also needs more women doing the preliminary economic thinking that goes into making policy.
"Less than 40% of economics post-graduate students are women. Just one of the top seven RBA officials is a woman. Treasury does not have any women amongst its most senior public servants. Having more female economists is not just about having a more diverse workforce - it changes the nature of the analysis," McAllister said.
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Senator Jenny McAllister
, Australia Institute
, Conference of Major Superannuation Funds
, Family Tax Benefits
, Labor Senator
, Mavis Robertson